The diagnosis of coeliac disease has advanced in the past decade owing to increased clinical awareness and improved tests. Coeliac disease is now regarded as a common disease presenting at any age with a broad spectrum of symptoms. Previous guidelines on diagnosis relied on the histological analysis of duodenal biopsy samples. However, contemporary antibody analysis is a diagnostic tool with a comparatively high accuracy that has reduced reliance on performing biopsies. Furthermore, determination of HLA-based genetic susceptibility to coeliac disease has become routine. European and North American guidelines utilize symptoms, coeliac antibodies (primarily tissue transglutaminase 2 IgA and endomysial IgA antibodies), HLA determination and histological analysis of biopsy tissue for diagnosis. Some guidelines conclude that the diagnostic accuracy of tissue transglutaminase 2 IgA antibodies is sufficient to omit duodenal biopsies in selected children with very high antibody levels, in the presence of clear symptom response as well as a positive endomysial antibody test and confirmation of genetic susceptibility. This Review discusses if such a strategy is appropriate for children and adults in all populations. The performance characteristics of antibody tests (particularly of the tissue transglutaminase 2 IgA test) including quality control and characterisation of the population in whom testing is performed are also discussed.
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